In Ukraine

By Alexander Mercouris, The Duran, July 20, 2016

When political killings happen in Russia, they are treated very seriously and get saturation coverage. When political killings – like the one of Pavel Sheremet – happen in Ukraine, they are treated with indifference.

Introduction by New Cold The car bomb killing of Pavel Sheremet in Kyiv on the morning of July 20, 2016 is being reported by all major Western media outlets. Enclosed further below are two typical news reports, from Deutsche Welle and The New York Times. But this uptick in Western news media attention to Ukraine is temporary and does not disprove the argument in the following commentary by Alexander Mercouris. Furtheremore, there will be an avalanche of speculative reporting seeking to point the finger at everyone but the governing regime in Ukraine as responsible for the killing. For example, the enclosed Deutsche Welle article reports that the government of Belarus is “likely responsible” for the killing.

Scene of killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kyiv on July 20, 2016 (V. Ogirenko, Reuters)

Scene of killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kyiv on July 20, 2016 (V. Ogirenko, Reuters)

Yet another journalist has just been killed in Ukraine, this time Pavel Sheremet, who was blown up by a bomb planted in a car he was driving in downtown Kiev.

Full news coverage: Renowned journalist killed in car bomb attack in Kyiv, New Cold, July 20, 2016

I predict that this murder will receive little attention or condemnation in the West.  Other murders of opposition activists and journalists which have happened in Ukraine since the Maidan coup have received scant attention.  There is no reason to expect this one to be treated any differently.

This of course is in sharp contrast to the way deaths and killings of opposition figures and journalists in Russia in the West become a major news story, with huge campaigns following the deaths of people like Anna Politovskaya and Boris Nemtsov.

The situations in Ukraine and Russia are not in fact comparable. Political killings in Russia were very common in the 1990s, and continued to be so for a time after Putin came to power.  They have now largely tailed off as order in the country has been restored. Today they are very uncommon. That is one reason why the murder of Boris Nemtsov last year was for many Russians so shocking, even though he had long since ceased to be a significant political figure. By contrast, political killings in Ukraine are today a commonplace.

Another important difference is that in Russia, political killings are big news.  Thousands of people turned out for Nemtsov’s funeral – by no means all of them his supporters – and his killing attracted heavy media attention in Russia as well as in the West. By contrast, political killings in Ukraine are now so common they encounter large-scale indifference.

Lastly, there is one further difference. In Russia the authorities take political killings very seriously. Politkovskaya’s murderers were caught after a painstaking investigation and were recently tried and convicted for her murder, even though there are still unanswered questions and the person who is believed to have been behind her killing has still not been named.

The Russian police have also arrested a group of people they say carried out the killing of Boris Nemtsov, though the investigation is still incomplete and the case has not yet gone to trial.

By contrast, in Ukraine the authorities generally simply go through the motions of investigating such murders. On a few occasions, they have even publicly criticised the victim whilst doing so – something which merit justified outrage if it were ever done in Russia.

However, it is in the silence of the Western media that the difference is most stark.  The one occasion where the Western media did finally – after some initial hesitation – stir itself up to complain about Ukrainian actions against journalists was not when a particular Ukrainian journalist or political activist was killed in Ukraine, and much less when a particular Russian journalist has been killed Ukraine (there have been many such cases). It is when a Ukrainian ultra nationalist website involved with ultra right wing groups that many suspect are behind the killings published details of Western journalists who have travelled to the militia controlled areas of the Donbass.  That incident did provoke complaints and eventual action by the Ukrainian government.

In other words, the Western media acted to protect its own. Where the killing of Ukrainians or Russians is concerned, by contrast, it shows indifference.

The killing of Sheremet will not change the situation in Ukraine. These sort of killings are now so common that one more or one less will make no difference.  However, it does show what a profoundly violent and unstable place Ukraine has become.

It also shows something else–how dangerous even the mildest form of criticism or opposition activity in Ukraine has become. This is something people need to bear in mind when they consider the political situation in Ukraine, including when they judge the political views individual Ukrainians express in public or even in opinion polls.

Journalist’s murder shocks Ukraine

Deutsche Welle, July 20, 2016

Russian Journalist Pavel Sheremet’s killing is one of Ukraine’s most politically-charged murders in years. He died when the car he was driving exploded. It is unclear if he was the intended target.

It happened at an intersection in the heart of Kyiv, not far from the German embassy and in morning rush-hour traffic. Pavel Sheremet was on his way to work on Wednesday morning when his car suddenly exploded at 7:45 a.m. local time. A passerby tried to save the 44-year-old journalist, pulling him from the wreckage, but Sheremet died at the scene of the bombing.

Never before has a journalist been killed by a car bomb in Ukraine. Not only are colleagues upset, politicians and everyday citizens are disgusted, shocked and perplexed. There have also been concerned reactions from abroad. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) representative for Freedom of the Media, Dunya Miyatovich, made a statement calling for the immediate investigation of the murder. Christopher Dreyer from Reporters Without Borders issued a similar statement.

“It is important that Ukrainian authorities investigate very quickly, thoroughly and independently,” he told DW. “Unfortunately, that has not always been the case in the past.”

Sheremet, a Russian citizen, lived in Ukraine for years and was known to a wide audience. He wrote blog articles for the popular online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, moderated radio shows and was a welcome guest on political talk shows. Sheremet was a pro. His appearances were prudent – he never dealt with scandals, instead he recently began managing and training journalists. His colleagues are asking why, of all people, Sheremet would be the target of such a brutal attack. The answer likely lies in the journalist’s past.

A critic of Lukashenko

Born 1971 in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, Sheremet began his career there as the editor-in-chief of a business newspaper. In the 1990s he made a name for himself as a correspondent for the Russian state broadcaster ORT. In 1997, Sheremet was arrested by Belarusian authorities while filming at the Belarus-Lithuania border. He was later sentenced to a two year suspended sentence for an illegal border crossing after being held in custody for about three months.

Sheremet was known as a critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. He also founded and ran the internet portal Belorusskiy Partisan, which is critical of the government. On Wednesday, Belarusian opposition politician Pavel Znavets took to his blog on the site to write that Belarus security services were likely responsible for Sheremet’s death, pointing to previous criticisms of Lukashenko as the reason.

Not wanted on Russian television

Following his conviction, Sheremet could no longer work in Belarus and then got involved with Russian television. Among the places he worked was the influential state-run Channel One, where he was editor-in-chief and a star anchor. He left the station in 2008. Sheremet explained that he had taken the drastic step due to the pressure over his criticism of the Kremlin and warnings Russia was heading down the same authoritarian path as Belarus.

In 2013, Sheremet became the moderator of a political talk show at the newly founded Russian channel OTR, which positioned itself as an independent public television channel. Yet, as early as 2014, when Sheremet criticized Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the station was bombarded with complaints.

“I consider the annexation of Crimea and support for the separatists in Eastern Ukraine to be a bloody adventure and a fatal political blunder for Russia,” wrote Sheremet on his Facebook page when he announced his departure from the station.

Was another journalist the target?

Sheremet never backed off of his criticism of Russia, even after moving to Kyiv. “Putin’s goal is to conquer the whole of Ukraine,” he said in a number of Ukrainian talk shows. On his blog at Ukrainska Pravda, the journalist warned against a massive all-out war between Ukraine and Russia. Observers in Kyiv say that such statements may have led to his downfall. Sheremet was also a close friend of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition politician who was shot to death in front of the Kremlin in 2015.

Police are also not discounting the possibility that Sheremet was coincidentally killed, and that the true target of the attack was his girlfriend, Olena Prytula. She was one of the original founders of Ukrainska Pravda and had served as its editor-in-chief until very recently. Sheremet was driving Prytula’s car when he was killed.

For Prytula, Sheremet’s death will no doubt bring back memories of one of Ukraine’s most politically charged killings of a journalist to date. In September 2000, Georgiy Gongadze, who was critical of the government and a co-founder of Ukrainska Pravda, was kidnapped and killed by police in Kyiv. Following Sheremet’s killing, the Ukrainian government has offered Prytula police protection.

Attacks on journalists were not uncommon in the first decade of Ukrainian independence. Many of them were kidnapped and intimidated, others were killed. Then there was a long period of relative calm. Journalists have been under threat once again in the wake of the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine. Most recently, the pro-Russian publisher Oles Buzina was shot and killed in Kyiv, in April 2015.

Pavel Sheremet, journalist in Ukraine, is killed in car bombing

By Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times, Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MOSCOW — A prominent radio and television journalist in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, was killed in a car bombing on Wednesday, officials said, in one of the highest-profile assassinations of a reporter in the country in years.

The journalist, Pavel Sheremet, 44, a Belarussian citizen who had worked for Russian state television before moving to Ukraine to host a morning radio news program five years ago, died when the car he was driving exploded near Kiev’s government quarter.

Mr. Sheremet was among several well-known journalists in Russia who moved to Ukraine, where restrictions on the news media are looser, around the time a new government took over in the country, in 2014. Members of this group have been highly critical of the new leadership.

The explosion scattered car parts over paving stones and sent them into a swirl of orange flames, photographs of the scene showed.

Yuriy V. Lutsenko, the Ukrainian prosecutor general, said on Facebook that a car bomb had caused the explosion, and he ruled out a technical fault with the vehicle.

Mr. Sheremet, the only occupant of the car, reported for Vesti, a radio news show based in Kiev, and also worked for Ukrainska Pravda, a well-respected news outlet.

In Russia, Mr. Sheremet had worked for ORT, a leading state-owned television station.

The car belonged to Mr. Sheremet’s girlfriend, Olena Prytula, a founding editor of Ukrainska Pravda, whose journalists, like others in the former Soviet Union, have been singled out for retribution. Speaking on Echo of Moscow radio Wednesday morning, his colleagues speculated that Ms. Prytula might have been the intended target.

In 2000, a Ukrainska Pravda reporter, Georgiy Gongadze, who had been highly critical of the president at the time, Leonid Kuchma, was killed and beheaded, a death that still resonates in Ukrainian journalistic circles.

In Russia, the opposition leader Mikhail N. Kasyanov issued a statement calling Mr. Sheremet’s killing “terrible” and praising him as a journalist who “didn’t compromise with his conscience.”


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